"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Corporate Lobbying by Memphis BioWorks Buys Charter Renewal for MASE

The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports this morning that the Shelby County School Board voted 18-1 to renew the local charter school, MASE, which has worse test scores than public schools that have been turned over recently for charter conversion.
But heavy lobbying by officials of the school operator, Memphis Bioworks Foundation, was evident in the split that developed on the board over the fate of the 10-year-old school.
Below is my letter to the Shelby County Board.

January 29, 2013
Open Letter to the Shelby County School Board:

Those of us who support the concept and mission of public education are trying to understand the Shelby Count School Board's decision last evening to renew the charter of the Memphis Academy of Science Engineering (MASE), even after ten years of marginal and substandard performance as measured by the same tests (TCAP and TVAAS) that are used to shut down public schools in Memphis for conversion to corporate charter reform schools.  There is enough irony here to make one dizzy.

The rationale that has been offered for renewing the MASE charter is that the school is showing improvement and that MASE, as a middle-high school has been mislabeled or unfairly compared to high schools. From Steve Bares, Chairman of the MASE Board:
“Because it’s both a middle and a high school they rank MASE not only with the three-year average but they aggregate that all into place and rank MASE against high schools, which inherently puts any school in that situation at a disadvantage,” he said.
We can find no evidence of unfair comparisons of MASE to high schools.  We do find evidence of slight improvement in value-added (TVAAS) scores from 2011 to 2012 at MASE, even though the state achievement (TCAP) scores are straight Fs in all four subjects.   MASE's value-added scores as reported on the State website are below:

MASE
Grades K-8 Value Added - Growth Standard?
(3 year average)*201120122012 State
CRTStatusMean GainStatusMean GainGrowth Std
MathF-2.8C0.10
Reading/LanguageF-2.9D-1.90
Social StudiesC0.1B10
ScienceD-0.9B0.60

What is particularly puzzling about the Board's decision to renew MASE's charter, despite recommendations from Supt. Kriner Cash to the contrary, has to do with how MASE compares in performance to other Memphis public schools that have been turned over to the Achievement School District (ASD) for corporate charter conversion next year.  There are six schools that are being handed over to charter operators, and four of those schools have better value-added (TVAAS) scores than MASE, a charter school that has just received your vote of confidence by an 18-1 margin.

As you can see below, Shannon Elementary, Klondike Elem., Whitney Elem., and Georgian Hills Elem. all have better improvement scores than MASE.  And yet all have been handed over for corporate charter conversion.


Shannon Elementary
Grades K-8 Value Added - Growth Standard?
(3 year average)*201120122012 State
CRTStatusMean GainStatusMean GainGrowth Std
MathA6.1A7.60
Reading/LanguageB0.6A2.20
Social StudiesA2.2A2.20
ScienceC0.2B1.10


Klondike Elementary
Grades K-8 Value Added - Growth Standard?
(3 year average)*201120122012 State
CRTStatusMean GainStatusMean GainGrowth Std
MathB0.9A4.60
Reading/LanguageF-6.1D-1.70
Social StudiesD-0.8B10
ScienceA1.8A40


Whitney Elementary
Grades K-8 Value Added - Growth Standard?
(3 year average)*201120122012 State
CRTStatusMean GainStatusMean GainGrowth Std
MathB1.1A3.40
Reading/LanguageD-2C00
Social StudiesD-0.9B10
ScienceD-1.5C-0.40

Georgian Hills Elementary
Grades K-8 Value Added - Growth Standard?
(3 year average)*201120122012 State
CRTStatusMean GainStatusMean GainGrowth Std
MathA2.5A3.10
Reading/LanguageF-3.2D-0.90
Social StudiesC0.1B1.10
ScienceD-1.4B0.80



Parents from these schools must wonder what is going on.  Did these four schools slated for charter conversion not have corporate lobbying on their side to keep them open?  Were they on the Gates Foundation hit list?  Did the TN Business Roundtable put out a contract on these four schools?  Did out-of-state hedge funds buy their way into the good graces of the State and local politicians?  Or do parents, children, and the future of publicly-controlled public schools no longer matter in areas of high poverty, or at least not matter enough to keep out profiteers and corporate welfare artists from taking over?

It would seem that some explanation is required, especially in light of the recent exposure of child abuse going on in Memphis charter schools.

Recruiting corporations to run awful schools with no public oversight or accountability, and to allow them to manhandle children at public expense, does not seem like a solution that can work in a democracy.  Perhaps you had something else in mind with the present scheme.

Sincerely,

Jim Horn
Schools Matter






No comments:

Post a Comment